The media narrative is that the Red Sox are ascendant right now, having won the offseason. Have they? It’s true that they’ve brought on young, expensive talent, but Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford have big shoes to fill. Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre made huge offensive contributions for Boston this past season. At best, the Sox are actually treading water on a season-by-season basis, but doing so in a way that solves long-term solutions. Are they better than the Yankees?
To answer this question I wanted to examine bWAR for each position player expected to take the field for each team next year. In the case of Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and other key injured members from the 2010 Red Sox, I’m replacing their 2010 numbers with their 2009 numbers to get a sense of a full season of production. I’m using bWAR only because I agree with its estimates more often than fWAR. Finally, the table below excludes catcher because neither team’s catching situation is entirely resolved. I’ve slotted Jorge Posada‘s production into the DH slot and made no overall change to it because he was positive offensively and negative defensively. Given that his bat is less valuable at DH than at catcher this adds up as a wash.
Here’s how the teams currently stack up:
This table says a few things to me. First of all, it argues that the Red Sox’ position players are better than the Yankees’ players right now, and I’m convinced. For the most part the Red Sox have a better player where the numbers suggest they do.
The only two positions where I question their advantages are SS and CF. Mike Cameron‘s numbers are from 2009. Next season Curtis Granderson has a chance to be better than he was in 2010, while Cameron will probably be worse than he was in 2009. At shortstop the smart money would not bet that Marco Scutaro will be better than Derek Jeter again in 2011. However, even if we switch those two positions to give the Yanks the advantage the Sox still come out on top, five positions to four.
The second thing this table says to me is that injuries matter. The Yankees won the injury battle during the season, and made the playoffs while the Red Sox stayed home. Whichever team wins the injury battle next season will once again have an advantage. The Sox will of course be the beneficiaries of full seasons from two of the game’s best players in Youkilis and Pedroia. Additionally, despite losing the production of Adrian Beltre (6.1 bWAR last season) and Victor Martinez (3.0), Crawford and Gonzalez more than make up for the missing bWAR.
The table also tells me that the Yankees really are banking on bounceback seasons from Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Those three could contribute up to two more WAR a piece, if they are having the kinds of seasons we expect from them, adjusting for their respective ages. If Tex and A-Rod have wOBAs around .385 and Jeter gets back up to around .345 then these two teams are truly a wash. If they continue the trends they set in 2010 then the Red Sox will have the advantage, and the Yankees will have an aging problem.
Finally, the table tells me the Yankees really do need to sign Cliff Lee. I’ve purposefully avoided including the teams’ pitchers because the Yankee rotation is in flux. If Lee signs, Andy Pettitte will probably come back, and the Yankee rotation is stronger than the Red Sox’ rotation. If Lee stays in Texas, Pettitte probably retires, and the Yankees will be competing with the Blue Jays for second place. As much as it pains me to write it, right now: Advantage Red Sox.
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